Excerpt: 'Dancing to the Music in My Head'

On the final verse, the entire band except for the drummer dropped out, so it was just me and the groove. I whispered the lines, hoping I sounded evil and mysterious. Then when the rest of the rhythm section came back in, I screamed the lyrics. I'm not sure if people liked it, but it sure felt good. And then I did my little jumps on the outro and, thankfully, managed to not land on my butt. The crowd's response was more muted than it had been in the past, probably because they didn't know what hit them. What was that about? Who was that kid yelling all over the place? Was that really our little, sweet, gentle Sanjaya? My guess was that they were totally confused. The Big Three, on the other hand, were another story. Randy gave a whoop. Paula gave a whoo. Simon cracked a teeny-tiny smile. It was the best reception I'd ever had from them.

Randy, as usual, started things off. "Yo, man, listen, all right? I've got to tell you, you shocked me tonight." I thought, Uh-oh. Does "shock me" mean he hated it more than anything I've done before? He continued, "Usually, you're this kind of reserved, just kind of this mildly meek kind of cool guy. And you came out of your shell tonight. That was your best performance to date, baby." He turned to his left and said, "I'm in shock, Paula."

See? I made it all about performance, and it worked.

Paula said, " That's what we've been waiting for."Randy said, in a silly, booming voice, "It's the new Sanjaya."

Paula said, "Yeeeeeeeeahhhh! Go for it. Go for it. You went for it. It was a lot of fun. I like this. I hope you had fun up there."

"I did." I'd been having fun onstage for the last two months, but I guess they hadn't felt my vibe from the table.

Paula gave me one of her cute little rounds of applause, then Randy, still shocked, I suppose, cracked up and said, "Oh-oh-oh-oh God." I'm not sure I wanted to know what that was about.

Then Simon, who, shocker of shockers, was smiling, gestured over to Ashley and said, "I think the little girl's face says it all." And that was it. Unbelievable. I'd rendered Simon Cowell speechless . . . and in a good way. I put my heart into the song, and I think he recognized that. Yay!

And then over came Ryan. He gestured over to Ashley and said to Simon, "I actually think she liked him."

Simon said, "Really?"

"Yeah," Ryan said, then asked Ashley, "You liked that, right? It was good? You're a fan?" All Ashley could do was nod, smile, and raise her hands up in the air. Ryan said to me, "Why don't you go say hi to this little girl?" then turned back to Ashley. "What's your name?"


"Ashley, great." He gently ushered me out into the audience. "Ashley, this is Sanjaya. Sanjaya, this is Ashley."

As I gave her a little hug, Randy, who had suddenly become my biggest fan, let out a long "Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!"

After the hug, Ryan asked Ashley, "Are you having fun? Do you need anything?" Confused, she shook her head. "Well, if you do, let us know. We'll be right here." Ryan was all about trying to make people feel at ease, to relax them, to make them happy.

Unfortunately, he wasn't able to make my fellow contestant Stephanie Edwards happy. Stephanie, who'd sung what I thought was a stellar version of Dusty Springfield's "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me," was voted off by the viewers. As for me, despite having been Simon Cowell's Punching bag for the last month, I lived to fight another week.

But truthfully, I wasn't sure how much fight I had left.

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